Necessary changes for breathing space
How moving out of the city could save your sanity
Moving about in the metro has become an unmitigated migraine. Traffic is almost always at a standstill, there’s a crush of people everywhere, and “Carmaggeddon” and “Commutageddon” have now become buzzwords. And with Christmas coming soon and consumers about to go on buying blitzes, it is only bound to get worse. The Land Transportation Office lists a total of 2,101,148 motor vehicles registered in the National Capital Region in 2013 alone—that should give a picture of how many vehicles are running on metro roads at any given day.
Let’s talk living, too. There’s now a lack of decent living space that’s affordable with an ordinary Joe’s salary. Rental fees, especially in highly commercialized areas, cost an arm and a leg, and condo units with a lower pricing range offer not much more than space for a bed, a bathroom, and maybe a hat stand. Even developers are running out of land to put up viable residential projects, resulting in anomalies such as the much-publicized photobomber of the Rizal Monument.
What’s more, the air quality, along with practically everything else, has become hazardous to health. In a presentation at the Nasal Care Awareness forum in Quezon City last June, Department of Environmental and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) assistant director Eva Ocfemia reported that the air pollutant concentration in the National Capital Region has reached 130 micrograms per normal cubic meter (μg/Ncm) in terms of total suspended particulates (TSP), up from 106 μg/Ncm at year’s end in 2014; for comparison, the maximum safe level of air pollutant concentration is 90 μg/ Ncm. This means we are breathing in more than our
fair share of pollutants and irritants called particulate matter, or PM, that come from combustion products; the result of space heating, industrial processes, power generation, and motor vehicle use.
Studies from the World Health Organization say that pollution, particularly from PM that can find its way deep into lungs, is to blame for 3.2 million preventable deaths every year. Worse news is there are not enough trees in the metro to offer even a sigh of relief, as they are mostly in pocket parks. And what’s left of bigger, leafier areas are already being considered for commercial and real estate purposes. There is simply less space to breathe freely.
The rains also bring the other perennial problem: flooding. What was once confined to areas such as Malabon and Navotas has now become a problem in main thoroughfares. The inadequacy of proper drainage systems as more infrastructure rises is part of the problem. Informal settlers dumping everything including the kitchen sink in esteros is another problem in itself.
The city is simply giving out. What was once a beautiful and thriving hub of art deco buildings and well-kept public parks is succumbing to urban decay, the faded glory evident in the nostalgic Facebook posts of premier urban planner Paolo Alcarazen. Metro Manila is a crowded megalopolis, with a population of 16.5 million people as of 2010 and a population density that has increased from 11,900 people per square kilometer to almost 13,000 between 2000 and 2010, according to a World Bank study.
The question now is, what are we to do? To keep our sanity and health intact, to keep body and soul together, it might be worthy to consider making a move— meaning packing our bags and settling somewhere else. This isn’t about falling off the radar: a move can go either north to outlying areas such as Bulacan or to the south where there are upscale and well-planned communities sprouting up in anticipation of the
worsening congestion situation.
Both sides are accessible via the NLEX and the SLEX, and both are now gearing up for commercialization and settlement via the setting up of schools and hospitals. Xavier School has a campus in Nuvali, for example, and De La Salle also has one in Canlubang, both in Laguna. In short, families with kids can live there and thrive. Also, unlike years ago when rural folks had to make a pilgrimage to major malls like SM North in Quezon City or the Quad in Makati, commercial areas complete with supermarkets, restaurants, and even branded outlet stores now make shopping closer to home.
For yuppies who struggle with getting to Makati or Ortigas on time every morning, the good news is that there is also employment available at the capital’s outskirts with industrial parks and locators for the BPO industry moving certain operations into areas outside of Metro Manila. The morning commute in these rising corporate centers would probably be only around 30 minutes, a Sunday drive compared to the three hours usually spent on the city’s roads.
Those who dream of making an impact can even consider starting and growing a business in these new communities, which can help provide local employment, lessening the need to move to Manila in search of better economic opportunities. Another good result: even less congestion.
Yes, the superclubs here might miss your presence, but a fantastic tradeoff would be a clear view of the night sky, no garish billboards, no too-bright LED lights. Mornings are easier and unhurried, and you might get to feel like belonging in a community once again instead of the social disconnect that marks city living. Think back to the times when you went on an out-of-town trip and found tranquility and a laid-back vibe that you loved so much. You dreaded going back to the urban jungle. Now, think about living like that every single day.
“To keep our sanity and health intact, to keep body and soul together, it might be worthy to consider making a move; packing our bags and settling somewhere else.”